Denmark followed Group C winners France into the last 16 with the first goalless draw of the 2018 World Cup against Les Bleus at the Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday.
France had already qualified and Denmark needed a point to be certain, although a 2-0 win for already eliminated Peru against Australia sent them through regardless of their result.
Didier Deschamps, marking his 79th game in charge to level Raymond Domenech’s France record, rested key players such as Paul Pogba and Hugo Lloris and kept Kylian Mbappe on the bench for the majority of the game with an eye on their knockout campaign.
Deschamps’ six changes contributed to a lack of cohesion that prevented France from ending the group stage with maximum points for the first time since they won the tournament in 1998, Antoine Griezmann struggling to link with partner Olivier Giroud.
After topping Group C thanks to a dull draw, France are on track to face Argentina in the first knockout round if Lionel Messi can inspire his side to victory against Nigeria, who occupy second spot in Group D.
Denmark – likely to face Croatia next – rarely threatened and appeared happy with a 0-0 draw that sends them into the knockout stages for the first time since 2002, with Tottenham star Christian Eriksen providing their greatest threat in front of goal.
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 26, 2018
Giroud and Raphael Varane sent early efforts off target as news of a Peru goal in Sochi reduced the pressure on Denmark.
Ousmane Dembele bent a presentable opportunity wide as a low-tempo match continued to await a shot on target.
And when it finally arrived in the 38th minute the strike from Griezmann was straight at Kasper Schmeichel and easily dealt with by the Leicester City goalkeeper.
Griezmann set up Giroud, but a late offside flag spared the blushes of the striker – scorer of Les Bleus’ last three goals against Denmark – after he blazed over the crossbar.
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) June 26, 2018
Steve Mandanda became France’s oldest World Cup debutant and the goalkeeper almost cost his side, spilling a long-range Eriksen free-kick before recovering to claim the loose ball ahead of lurking striker Andreas Cornelius.
Eriksen drilled wide in the 59th minute as Age Hareide’s side took control of the contest, although France substitute Nabil Fekir rippled the side-netting with an ambitious drive shortly after his introduction for lacklustre Griezmann.
Fekir forced a smart stop from Schmeichel in the 82nd minute, while Giroud had a late penalty appeal rejected by referee Sandro Meira Ricci.
Key Opta stats:
– Since their defeat to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final, France have only lost one of their last 13 games in competitive action (W9 D3).
– This was the first 0-0 of the 2018 World Cup, making it the longest wait from the start of a single tournament for one – there had been 36 games played prior to Tuesday’s matches.
– Didier Deschamps’ 79 games in charge of France have now produced nine 0-0s, with this the first since a stalemate with Luxembourg in September 2017.
– Kasper Schmeichel (two in three games) has now kept more clean sheets for Denmark at the World Cup than his father Peter (one in five games).
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